Two letters

Every New Year’s Eve without fail, I remember what my maternal great-aunt, Tía Quina, told me when I was seventeen.

“Whatever you’re doing as the old year passes sets the tone for what awaits you in the new year, so be sure your house is clean and all else is in order.”

Setting priorities

Last year during the holidays, I decided that I wasn’t cleaning house and doing laundry as usual before the new year.  I’d experienced such great success with my letter writing experiment from New Year’s Eve 2010, that I wanted to focus on my correspondence instead.

In 2011, I’d wanted to touch base with Father Robert at Franciscan Mission Associates but missed the opportunity when he was succeeded by Father Primo in October.  Plus, I hadn’t requested two more St. Anthony relics from him as I’d intended.

       

Similarly, I’d wanted to share my thoughts on Teresa of Avila (Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc, 1979) with Sister at the Flower of Carmel monastery in Australia, since she’d emailed twice early in the year; but I just hadn’t made the time.

With 2011 fast coming to an end, I couldn’t put off either communication any longer.  I got busy writing and finally mailed the two letters with time to spare.

Letter to Sister

27 December 2011

Dearest Sister,

It’s been a very long time since I last wrote and/or emailed; but it’s been a year of bearing my crosses quietly on my own, too.

When I last wrote to you, I was so worried that I was frustrated, tired, and disappointed.  I typed a very long letter and attached it to my email to you.  And then I felt badly, guilty, for having shared my woes….

I took a hard look at the situation which, believe it or not, grew progressively worse; [so] I chose to step away….  to simply let go… and begin my journey.

Long story short, I discovered Teresa of Avila; and, oh, what a difference she’s made in my life!

It’s funny how things happen, but I truly believe that God has his own very personal timeline for each of us.  And wouldn’t you know it?  I started shucking extraneous habits.  Not bad habits but things that kept me from focusing inwardly.

I don’t know how it happened, but I lost interest in emailing and in other things as well.  And I began to discover some pretty amazing stuff.

Every day since you and I have known each other I’ve thought of you, and I’ve been faithful about praying the chaplet you sent me in 2010.  It’s something that’s taken root in my life, [something] that’s as natural as my dialogues with the Infant since before Segy… and I visited Our Lady of Victory Church in Prague (July, 1998).

I think that the more I’ve recited the chaplet prayers the more I’ve learned how to bear my crosses, how to focus my attention on what’s really important, and how to deal with adversity in my life.

Certainly, I’ve had a lot of ta-dah moments: epiphanies that make me laugh or cry or both.  I’ve enjoyed writing about my experiences and [posting] them on my personal blog ‘cause I want others to learn about St. Teresa as well.

It’s amazing how I’ve been able to connect bits and pieces from my life leading to when I read Teresa of Avila and have found that I was readying for her messages [all along].  Her book is such a joyful treasure from God!  A pick-me-up when I need uplifting.  A friend when I need a smile and a sweet hello.

So, yes, bad things have continued to happen; but God’s allowed me to remain focused on what he wants for me to see, to think about, to do.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  As I said, I wrote five posts about St. Teresa’s book for my personal blog [and] found that her messages have been exactly what I’ve needed since I was a child.

St. Teresa has become my mentor, a very loving close friend who’s with me to share her teachings… beautiful, heartfelt… so that I don’t feel alone and/or lost.  She’s helped me understand what it means to tell the Infant that I accept all the crosses he wants to send my way.

Somehow I can make it.  Despite the pain and the sorrow, despite the disappointment and the frustration, despite the anger that I feel against injustices… still… I welcome the crosses.

Mind you, [when] I’m having a tough time… not doing well at all with my crosses… I simply tell the Infant,

Please forgive me.  I’m having a really tough time today.  I’m sorry.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that I’ve found inspiration in a little book that’d been waiting on the shelf since April, 2008.

Untouched, forgotten, it called out to me one morning; and, when I began to read it, I couldn’t set it down!  I’ve reread it countless times.  It’s an awesome read!

[So, yes.]  Lots has happened since I last wrote….

Mom died November 29….  She [believed] in prayer, and she loved the Sisters she communicated with.  [She gave] me her oldest sister’s Infant [statue] in 1999 [after my aunt died].

Since I’d faithfully used the chaplet you’d initially sent me, I placed it in mom’s hand before the casket was sealed at the funeral home.  My thinking was that she knew I was devoted to the Infant, so she [can] now join me in prayer from heaven whenever I spend my special time with the Infant….

I’m now praying with the [second] chaplet you sent [even though it was meant for our daughter], and I’m thinking that you’re fine with it.

I also want to thank you again for the six candles you sent with [the second] chaplet.  I lit one… early this year….  [Then] I gave away three [to the couples in] our Why Catholic? group….  The two I have left… are keeping me company until I have a very special reason to use them… or until I gift them to someone.

So you see?  Your gifts have gone a very long way!  The very same way that your prayers have continuously embraced us all this time!

We love you!  Thank you!

Letter to Father Primo

29 December 2011

Dear Father Primo,

In the 1980s, Father Roderick sent me three relics.  Then in the 1990s, Father Robert sent me two.  However, I always manage to give them away to someone who’s in need of everyday miracles and friendship from our beloved St. Anthony.

At this time, I’m asking… please… that you send me five, as there are three couples in our Why Catholic? family and another couple, Olivia and George, in dire need.

I’d like to bead some chaplets for them and print out the prayers so that they, too, can know St. Anthony as I have since age thirteen.

If you could do this for me, I’d be ever so [happy], as I’ve included myself in the five.  You see, I feel… lost without my relic; but, as I said, I gave my last one away when I beaded two chaplets to give to Ruth and Sabrina… at [the] doctor’s office.

Please know that I understand if you can’t send me the number I’ve requested.  It’s fine.  But I do really need one for Olivia because she’s [undergoing surgery, January 23], and I’d like to make her day by giving her a promise of hope through St. Anthony’s intercession.  Plus, George worries a lot about his three adult kids….

Thanks ever so much for all you do.  Know that you’re in my thoughts and prayers… the same way Father Roderick was, the same way Father Robert was.

God bless you and your Franciscan associates abundantly!

Prayers

God of all time, on this New Year’s Day we place the days and months of the new year into your hands and we pray, “Lord, hear our prayer.”  Fill our days with the blessings of family, friendship, laughter, and love.  We pray, “Lord, hear our prayer.”  Show us ways to spend our time serving your children in need.  We pray, “Lord, hear our prayer.”  Help us appreciate the time we have to listen to your Word and to talk with you in prayer.  We pray, “Lord, hear our prayer” (R. L. Benziger, 2016).

In the year ahead, Lord of New Beginnings, stretch our souls and move us into new awareness of the human family, their needs and their longings.

Make these into our needs, our longings so [that] we move more confidently from our small selves to a deeper sense of community where our resolutions reflect our interdependence.

Help us recognize the possibilities you have offered to us as a people, so we can commit to practice the hope that happens when we gather gratefully n your name and we hold up to you this fragile, precious world.

Grant us all the grace in this year ahead to sow the seeds of justice and to gather peace in our day.  Amen (Capuchin Communications: Franciscan Province of St. Joseph, 2016).

August 3, 2012

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart” (Phyllis Theroux).

December 31, 2016

The past is no longer yours; the future is not yet in your power.  You have only the present wherein to do good (St. Alphonsus Liguori).

Links of interest…  Child Jesus: chaplet (more) / history / little crown / petitions…  Flower of Carmel (Goonellabah): contact info / home / prayer…  Franciscan Mission Associates…  Help from heaven…  Hymn to St. Anthony of Padua…  Journalism as an act of grace…  Letters of note…  Nine Tuesdays devotion…  Si quaeris miracula: prayer / song…  St. Anthony’s Guild: devotions / ecards / prayer requests / prayers

WP posts…   Budding relationships…  Christmas year ’round…  Connected tangents…  Franciscan experience…  Gift of love…  Growing pains…  Holy relics…  In good time…  Making meaning…  My Franciscan Crown…  On being Christian…  Prayer…  Promise of hope…  Prayerful ways…  Santo Niño…  Seven dwelling places…  Si quaeris miracula…  Soulful…  St. Anthony…  St. Felix…  Sweet Jesus…  Teresa of Avila…  Two prompt replies…  Venerable Margaret

Christmas year ’round

Months before the Catholic Shoppe permanently closed last year, I dropped by to replenish my medals stash, since I bead Franciscan Crowns and St. Anthony chaplets.

               

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But why stop there

I also looked at the dual-sided medals— the kind with a different saint on either side— for Our Lady of Guadalupe, and who should I see but San Juan Diego.

Oh, good!  I can use these on some of my crowns or make bracelets with them.

Then I found some St. Anthony medals, so I got a few of those for the chaplets.  I much prefer the relics from Franciscan Mission Associates, but I have to make do with what’s available.

What I really and truly wanted were Holy Infant of Prague medals for some chaplets that I hadn’t yet begun to design, but I didn’t find any; and the shop had no idea when some would be in stock.

What to do, what to do since I rarely drive into town to buy items I need.

Veritable rose

As I stood there trying to decide, I examined the medals I was holding and made quite a discovery.  Not all the Lady of Guadalupe medals were paired with San Juan Diego.  I’d erroneously assumed that all the medals in the bin were the same, yet some had the Santo Niño de Atocha instead of San Juan Diego.

Hallelujah!  I’ll buy more of these with the Holy Infant and try my hand at crafting the chaplets I’ve had on hold all this time.  Then, later on, I’ll come back to buy some Infant of Prague medals.

The beauty of it all is that the Infant, like Our Lady, is known to devotees by various names.  Nevertheless, he’s one and the same regardless of our name for him, as the bishop told us at the feast day Mass of the Santo Niño de Cebú.

Bishop’s homily

Christmas is not over in the Philippines until the Santo Niño de Cebú feast day.  The celebration began in 1521 when Magellan first introduced the statue from Spain.  After a great fire, the Santo Niño statue miraculously remained intact; so it’s now a much venerated relic.  But, whether the Infant is called the St. Infant of Prague or the Santo Niño de Atocha, the practice is the same.  There are many beautiful stories.  Growing up [in Ireland], there were always statues in homes.  The custom was to place a coin under the statue, so the family would never go broke.  The Infant of Prague statue was placed outside to guarantee fine weather for a wedding.  The message from the Santo Niño has always been associated with humility, love, and trust.  The Santo Niño calls in whispers.  If we listen carefully, we hear him.  The Lord calls us in different ways to give us a message to do what he asks.  The Lord waits patiently for all of us to come to him, nonjudgmentally to follow him.  If we do that— follow his counsel, trust in him— we need not worry.  With him all things are possible (Bishop Edmund Carmody, 2009).

Two prototypes

Finally having both the time and the inclination to focus on creating the Child Jesus chaplets, I got to work.

The chaplet on the left, strung on black hemp, was completed first.

Since the devotion starts with three Our Father‘s, I chose blue for God’s powerful greatness.  The pink beads represent Our Lady’s tender loving care, so they’re the twelve Hail Mary‘s.  The green beads denote not only the promise of hope for the chaplet’s devotees, but also the thanksgiving and praise sent heavenward with the three Gloria‘s.

The chaplet on the right had me in contemplative, problem solving mode overnight.  It’s visually different from the first because of its bright orange hue reminiscent of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Strung with elastic, it can be worn as a bracelet.

Christmas year ’round

Although the second chaplet posed somewhat of a challenge— um, many— since hiding knots takes a bit of creative talent, I’ve got my materials set out to bead at least one more bracelet with the three remaining Our Lady of Guadalupe/Santo Niño de Atocha medals on the dining table.

I can hardly wait to see how the rest of the chaplets turn out.  And I’ll certainly add photos upon completion.  After all, sharing the Child Jesus chaplet with others is one way to keep Christ in Christmas year ’round.

January 18, 2012

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November 18, 2014

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Pdf file…  Child Jesus chaplet prayers

Links of interest…  Catholic devotions: A spiritual vocabulary…  Five ways to put all those Christmas cards to good use…  Franciscan Mission Associates…  Holy Infant of Prague: about / chaplet (more) / devotion / feast / history / little crown / novena / of good health / petitions…  Padre Pio & the Christmas graces of the Infant of Prague…  Santo Niño de Atocha: about / chapel / history / miracles / origin / prayers / story…  Santo Niño de Cebú: basilica / feast / history / hymn (YouTube) / novena / origin / perpetual novena / poem / song (YouTube)…

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Christmas blessings…  Connected tangents…  Faith and prayer…  Faces of Mary…  Father’s guided tour…  Guadalupe Church…  Holy relics…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s seven joys…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  My Franciscan Crown…  Oh, happy day!…   On being Christian…  Our Lady…  Our Lady’s church…  Prayers and blessings…  Promise of hope…  Repeated prayers…  San Juan Diego…  Santo Niño…  Si quaeris miracula…  Sweet Jesus…  Venerable Margaret

Angels all around

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A lifetime ago I taught a CCE class at St. Mary’s back home.  I wanted so much to be an angel— not a saint, an angel— that I mentioned this tasty morsel to the other catechists at our Christmas luncheon.

The director, who overheard, chided me.

Don’t you know that angels were never human?  That they’re nothing more than God’s helpers?  That God loves us infinitely more than angels?  You should want to be a saint instead!

I was crushed!

Field of angels

That night I dreamt I was standing in a field at dusk.  The flapping sounds all around me kept getting louder and louder.  I wondered if I was standing at the airport near mom’s house.  Then, lo and behold, what a sight!

What joy!  What awe!

As evening became nighttime more and more angels were landing all around me.  Lots of angels.  A whole field full of angels gracefully landing and lifting off.  Some my height, others much taller.  All willowy.  All with the same peaceful yet intense expression.  All so very elegant, purposeful.  All so very real!

I had no idea what was happening.  I was awestruck to be in the presence of these gorgeous beings that were either oblivious to my standing in their midst or accepting of me as I was.

I remember facing west, and when I turned to my right, there— not two feet from me— stood the most beautiful angel ever!  He must’ve been eight to ten feet tall, wearing a resplendent white gown with a bright, teal-colored satin sash.  His hair was brown; his face, masculine yet soft-featured.  He emanated self-confidence and was so focused that he didn’t even turn to look at me.  He straightened his sash as we stood in total silence except for the flapping all around of wings spanning eight to ten feet or more.

Standing beside him I sensed that he commanded the others.  Yet, they were so proficient that they needed no reminders about their duties and responsibilities.  I wondered if they were working in shifts, since they came and went at different times.  Had they returned for the night?  Were those departing called out on emergencies?

Two angels

A few years later when I taught CCE at Christ the King, Bennye, a fourth grader, gave me a book, There’s Dynamite in Praise (Gossett, 1974), which included a story about two angels.

I thought about my dream.  Maybe those steadfast angels landing all around me had indeed returned to heaven after having spent their day on earth.

It was during this time, too, that the catechists at Christ the King would gather ’round Sister Jovita to talk after Tuesday night’s middle school CCE classes.

One plus three or twelve

“Have you ever wanted to meet your guardian angel?” I asked.

The catechists in our small group hadn’t given the notion any thought, but I was so excited that I had to share my dream.

“I did, and I have!  I even wrote about it in my journal.  My guardian angel’s name is Bwrn, spelled with all consonants.  I met him as he walked down a dirt path with his ‘three assistants,’ but he can summon ‘a dozen more if they’re needed.’  He’s stocky and robust with a strong yet gentle voice, and he assured me that I’m very well protected.”

“Are you familiar with Andrew Greeley?” Sister asked.

None of us had heard of Greeley, so Sister told us he’d written about angels.

“I’ll check Waldenbooks,” I told her but never found that particular title.

Although I forgot about the book, my recollection of the dream remains unchanged and just as vivid.  I see the old Celtic castle on the low, somewhat grassy hill in the distance as Bwrn and two or three others make their way down the well-trodden pathway.  I’m reminded of Robin Hood with his forest-green outfit, leggings, and dark-brown suede boots.  Bwrn is clearly in charge, speaking to the others here and there.  I’m so taken with him that I don’t notice his wings.  Are they folded back so that I can’t see them? 

Without a doubt, then or now, Bwryn is my guardian angel.  What a dream come true!

Angels all around

My dreams were truly unforgettable; the angels, very real.  It’s easier to share what I felt than to describe what I saw and can readily visualize the scenes, but words take time.  For this reason, I was tempted to scour through my journals to look for the angel entries, but that’d be a lengthy process.

To this day I still look for the tall angel when I come across angel sites, prayer cards, and related literature— my angel isn’t in Angels (Underhill, 1994) either— but I haven’t given up.  One of these days I’ll find the angel in white with the teal satin sash but, until then, I’ll enjoy my gift angels all around as reminders of the field of angels in my dream.

          

            

                 

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Prayers

For protection…  My guardian angel, faithful and strong in virtue, you are one of the angels led by St. Michael who overcame Satan and his followers.  That battle, which one day took place in heaven, now continues on earth.  The prince of evil and his followers oppose Jesus Christ and try to ensnare souls.

Pray to the Immaculate Queen of the Apostles of the Church, the city of God which fights against the city of Satan.  St. Michael the Archangel, together with your followers, defend us in battle.  Be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil.  May the Lord subdue him!  And you, prince of the heavenly host, thrust back into hell Satan and the other evil spirits who roam through the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

Guardian angel…  Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side… to light, to love, to be my guide.

O most faithful companion, appointed by God to be my guardian who never leaves my side, how shall I thank you for your faithfulness and love and for the benefits which you have obtained for me?

You watch over me when I sleep, comfort me when I’m sad, avert the dangers that threaten me, and warn me of those to come.  You withdraw me from sin and inspire me to good.  You exhort me to penance when I fall and reconcile me to God.

I beg you not to leave me.  Comfort me in adversity, restrain me in prosperity, defend me in danger, and assist me in temptations.

Offer up in the sight of the Divine Majesty my prayers and petitions and all my works of piety.  Help me to persevere in grace until I come to everlasting life.  Amen.

Mother to her children’s guardian angels…  I humbly salute you, O you faithful, heavenly friends of my children!  I give you heartfelt thanks for all the love and goodness you show them.  At some future day I shall, with thanks more worthy than I can now give, repay your care for them and before the whole heavenly court acknowledge their indebtedness to your guidance and protection.  Continue to watch over them.  Provide for all their needs of body and soul.  Pray, likewise, for me, for my husband, and my whole family, that we may all one day rejoice in your blessed company.  Amen.

October 2, 2012

The angels, wherever they may be sent, never stop gazing upon God.  In the same way, the virtuous person, as much as he can, always keeps the memory of God in his heart (St. Bonaventure, 1217-1274).

Make yourself familiar with the angels and behold them frequently in spirit for without being seen, they are present with you” (St. Francis de Sales, 1567-1622).

October 2, 2013

Thank you, Father, for sending an angel to watch over me.  May I come to share your life with all the angels, singing your praises forever! (the Word among us, October 2013, p. 22).

September 3, 2014

The only true riches are those that make us rich in virtue.  Therefore, if you want to be rich, beloved, love true riches.  If you aspire to the heights of real honor, strive to reach the kingdom of heaven.  If you value rank and renown, hasten to be enrolled in the heavenly court of the angels (Pope St. Gregory the Great).

October 2, 2014

For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go.  With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone (Psalm 91:11–12).

“The whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 334).

November 21, 2014

“You will become a saint by complying exactly with your daily duties” (St. Mary Joseph Rossello).

June 16, 2015

He who believes himself to be a saint is a fool.  Genuine saints always look upon themselves as the worst sinners.  And, when our Lord grants a favor through their prayers, they credit such favors to this or that saint, whereas their own faith was largely responsible for them (St. John Bosco).

July 7, 2015

Ask Jesus to make you a saint.  After all, only he can do that.  Go to confession regularly and to Communion as often as you can (St. Dominic Savio).

May 5, 2016

Do you wish to rise?  Begin by descending.  You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds?  Lay first the foundation of humility.  It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels (St. Augustine).

July 6, 2016

“He said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you to make your journey successful'” (Genesis 24:40).

October 2, 2016

“If we could only see the joy of our guardian angel when he sees us fighting our temptations” (St. John Vianney).

May 5, 2017

“In God, there is another perfection: all goodness is pleasing to him by nature, always and everywhere, whether it be in angels, in men, or in other creatures” (St. Thomas Aquinas in The Ways of God).

June 5, 2017

Despite all of the skills we bring to challenging times in our lives, we never operate through them in a vacuum.  We always come in contact with, need, and benefit from other people.  Some of these men and women are familiar, perhaps even family members.  Others are complete strangers.  All can be our “angels on earth,” true treasure in our lives— if we recognize them for who they are, the gifts they bring, and nurture the ties, however slight, that we share with them (Maureen Pratt in Don’t Panic: How to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough).

July 9, 2020

If the fury of your enemies is great and their numbers overwhelming, the love which God holds for you is infinitely greater.  The angel who protects you and the saints who intercede for you are more numerous (Dom Lorenzo Scupoli in Spiritual Combat).

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Blue angel mascot – Immaculate Conception School – Brownsville, TX

Links of interest…  20 things guardian angels do for us…  Angels: about (more) / book / chaplet / choirs / creation (more) / mysterious guardiansprayers & more / servants of God / spiritual life / stories…  Archangels: feast (more) / Michael, Gabriel, St. Raphaelnovenas / Raphael…  Biblical encounter with three Celtic saints…  Crises of saints…  Do angels have wings…  Ever this day angels are at our side…  Guardian angel: about (more) / badge / chaplet / eight things to know & share about the guardian angel / memorial / prayers / twenty things they do for us…  Our Lady, queen of angels…  Lessons from a monastery: hospitality…  Remarkable friendship between a saint & her guardian angel…  Rosaries & chaplets: collection / maker’s guide / pictures & prayers…  There’s dynamite in praise (Gossett, 1974): about / book (more) / miracle healing testimonies…  Time for Christian heroes…  We are called to be angels…  What humans can do that angels can’t

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Building community…  Prayer and praise…  St. Mary’s…  St. Michael chaplet…  Two angels

Powerful intercessor

My friend, Olivia, called on New Year’s Eve.  She wanted to tell me about her upcoming surgery, January twenty-third.

Prayer booklet

“Did you receive my Christmas card?” I queried.

               

“Why do you ask?”

“I included a St. Peregrine prayer booklet,” I said.  “He’s a true wonder worker.”  Then I proceeded to tell her what had happened a few Saturdays back.

Personal experience

For at least three weeks, I’d been having serious abdominal cramping.  Sometimes it was off and on throughout the day; other times, constant.

Being a worry wort, my imagination knows no bounds; so I’d been in search-and-find mode on the internet, looking at sites— the Mayo Clinic, WebMD and others— I’ve come to trust.  I’d feel okay about what I’d read, but I’d still wonder… and be concerned.

Still, I hate going to the doctor; so I always put it off as a last resort.  I hate to take meds for anything since they irritate my stomach and abdomen.  I don’t do well with over-the-counter drugs either, so it’s quite a conundrum especially when I have no choice but to bite the bullet and take something prescribed.

Father Ralph’s homily

Sharing all this with Olivia, I then said, “So I was lying in bed, the room dark and perfect for focusing on just one prayer.  I remembered, as I often do, Father Ralph’s homily regarding St. Peregrine’s powerful intercessions.”

SMC10910-107Yes, the good God Almighty has indeed done wondrous deeds.  [Moreover,] since he is as the Bible tells us— the same, yesterday, today, and forever— we can expect to see, to experience, and many times to be part of, his miraculous delivering power in our lives and the lives of those that are very near and dear to us.  It’s an ongoing testimony to the reality of God and to the truth of his word.

[With] the St. Peregrine novena, I’ve seen ongoing miracles [but] you must have faith to believe and expect God to do what no one else can do.

God is real.  Miracles are real.  God [doesn’t play favorites].  [He’s] bigger than any problem you could possibly face or endure.  He said, “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will answer you and show you marvelous things you know not of” (transcribed audio; Lanoux, 2010).

Healing power

“What I recalled most about Father Ralph’s homily as I lay in pain,” I continued, “was that I didn’t need to be present before St. Peregrine’s first-class relic at Stella Maris to state my petition.  I remembered the story Father told about little Cooper from Victoria, Texas.”

SMC10910s-10aAbout a week [after visiting here for the first time, Cooper’s grandparents] called and told me they liked the chapel.  Then about a week or two later, [the grandfather] called [again].

“Father, we’ve got a problem….  [My] twenty-one-month-old grandson… can’t walk, [and] the doctors can’t figure out why.”

I said, “Bend over now.  Touch your ankles, [and] we will pray.  There’s no distance in prayer.  God’s a healer.  He’s not dead; he’s alive.”

I don’t know what I prayed.  I just prayed.

A week or two later, [the grandfather called].  He [was] ecstatic.

“I went to a family gathering for my son,” [he told me], “and little Cooper was there.  He was running all over.  You can’t keep up with him!”

[The grandparents brought Cooper] to the chapel.  I hadn’t [met] Cooper [until then].  At the end of Mass, I had [the grandfather] give that little testimonial.

“As I lay in bed that night, I prayed.  Mentally, silently, I focused on the words with resolve.

St. Peregrine, I’ve had this terrible pain for weeks now and I’m scared.  It could be nothing serious, but I’m still concerned.  If it’s God’s will that I should be healed, then please help me.

“And you’re not going to believe this, Olivia.  The moment I reached the period at the end of my visualized sentence, the pain was gone!  I haven’t had any more abdominal discomfort since then.  Isn’t that amazing?!!  Father’s words, ‘There’s no distance in prayer,’ empowered me to ask for healing.  And I got it!  So this is why I sent you the prayer booklet.”

Building community

“I’ll most certainly read the leaflet,” Olivia said enthusiastically.  “In fact, my sister called to remind me about the prayer shawl she’d sent some time back.  She insisted that I cover myself with it.  The prayer blanket ministry she belongs to made it, so I’m going to use that, too.”

We talked and laughed a while longer before we hung up the phone.  I assured Olivia that I’ll be at the hospital to keep her husband, George, and the others company the afternoon of the surgery; and she, in turn, told me that she feels “positively about everything.”  She also said that she’ll petition St. Peregrine for healing.

Prayers to St. Peregrine

A novena offering…  We thank you, heavenly Father, for the Church’s constant blessing upon the beautiful custom of invoking special saints for special needs.

In St. Peregrine we honor a powerful helper in certain bodily ailments and afflictions.  May his prayerful and loving intercession, added to our own prayers, obtain for us the special graces for which we plead during these nine days of prayer.

As we begin our novena, please accept it as our filial offering of worship to you, almighty and merciful Father.  In rendering homage to your holy ones, it is you, Father, whose favors and blessings we seek.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Daily novena…  Heavenly Father, we thank you for giving us St. Peregrine as patron of persons suffering from cancer, foot ailments, or any incurable disease.

May he unite his prayers to our own.  May he intercede before the throne of grace for all persons now suffering and afflicted.

We recommend especially those for whom we now request his prayers.  (Please name the ones you are praying for— and don’t forget your personal needs.)  In the name of Christ our Lord, who is glorified in Peregrine and all the other saints, we pray.  Amen.

Contact information

Nine Days Prayer to St. Peregrine (B-28R/07) is from Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mount Vernon, NY 10551-0598.  The booklet focuses on one of nine intentions daily: trust, love, peace on earth, humility, patience, hope, living by the day, thankfulness, and perseverance.

   

   

January 21, 2012

Oh, glorious day!  Steven and I visited Stella Maris again and spent time visiting with Father Ralph before five o’clock Mass.  My wish came true when Father Ralph let me hold St. Peregrine’s first-class relic so I could pray for Olivia.

Of course, I prepared in other ways, too.

January 23, 2012

Thinking that I might not be allowed to visit Olivia before her surgery, I’d anticipated that George would take my gifts in for her to know that I was there.  I’d specially selected a prayer blanket from church that I’d added to my care packet— a St. Anthony card with the chaplet prayers, a copy of my “Mary’s seven joys” post, and a heartfelt note— as tokens of our love and prayers.

Dearest Olivia,

Back at St. Paul’s George beaded my first Franciscan Crown for me.  The one shown here is one of about a hundred or so that I’ve beaded to gift to others along with the prayers above.

Saturday, January fourteenth, I received a St. Anthony relic for you from Father Primo, director of Franciscan Mission Associates.  For this reason, I beaded a chaplet and printed out the prayers for you.

Saturday, January twenty-first, Steven and I visited Father Ralph Jones at Stella Maris, the little church on Goose Island.  I told him about your surgery today, and he showed me his first-class St. Peregrine relic for me to pray with for you and George.

Then today I emailed Father Xaviour to request a prayer blanket for you, which I obtained from Ninfa, the office secretary at St. Joseph’s.

You and George are in our thoughts and prayers always.

Much love & heartfelt hugsss,
Deli & Steve Lanoux
23 January 2012

               

Mary sat in the waiting room when I arrived at the hospital.  I’d first met Mary and her husband, Jack, along with Olivia and George, at Steven’s first Knights of Columbus breakfast at St. Paul’s in 2006.  The four of them are longtime friends, but today Jack couldn’t be there.  Still, we agreed that he was there in prayer.

George was still in the prep room since Olivia’s surgery hadn’t yet begun.  I’d wanted so much to let Olivia know I was there as promised, but there was no way to do that.  Not much later, George joined us, so we walked with him to the cafeteria for some coffee and conversation.  Mary and I knew that George was highly anxious about Olivia’s surgery, so our game plan was to distract him as much as possible.

Olivia’s surgery went better than fine.  Although the procedure took about eight hours, the surgeon, who was all smiles, was surprised and quite pleased at how well everything had gone.

I told him that we’d networked prayerfully since December 7, 2011, when Olivia had first been to her doctor.  “Olivia said, ‘Let’s pray for the doctors and all the medical staff.'”

“Keep it up!  It worked!” the surgeon beamed.

January 24, 2012

I visited Olivia in ICU today, and she was awake long enough for us to talk a while.

“You just missed George,” she said.  “He was here since very early, but all I did was sleep so I sent him home to rest.”

Then the chaplain dropped by.  “Are you part of her family?” he asked sweetly.

“Part of her church family,” I twinkled.

Gently, genuinely, the chaplain inquired about Olivia’s health.

As he prayed, I joined in by touching his arm and raising my right hand, just as the chaplain was doing over Olivia.

Where two or more are gathered, there in their midst is God.

“You’re my angel,” Olivia said after the chaplain left.  “No one had come by; but, as soon as you showed up, the chaplain came to see me.”

Olivia wanted to know what’d happened yesterday.

“Didn’t George tell you?”

“No.”

I shared all the good reports we’d received while she’d been in the operating room as well as Dr. Varin’s very optimistic news afterwards.

Better than what I did can’t be done.  The surgery took longer than expected, but even I am AMAZED at how well things went!

“We had a network of prayers going,” I told Dr. Varin, to which he replied,

Keep it up!  It works!!!

Then I told Olivia about Steven’s and my visit to Stella Maris on Saturday.

Olivia was very happy to hear that I’d actually held St. Peregrine’s relic.  “Touch me,” she insisted before I left.

As I made the sign of the cross on Olivia’s forehead and caressed her face, her body relaxed.  I gave thanks and praise to God for his angels and his saints, especially
St. Peregrine and St. Anthony.  I gave thanks and praise for the doctor and the medical staff.  And I gave thanks and praise for the network of prayers on behalf of Olivia and George.

“George loves you so much, Olivia!  Go to sleep now so you feel better.”

Olivia quickly closed her eyes and turned her head sideways to slumber.

“We love you,” I whispered as I turned to leave.

March 2, 2012

Olivia left me a message on the answering machine.

Just wanted you to know I’m doing very well.  The doctor did a great job!  I don’t need chemo or radiation.  Thanks for your prayers.

March 29, 2012

Olivia showed up to the women’s ACTS retreat send-off, and she was radiant.

“Here’s another of God’s miracles!” I rejoiced, sharing her story with Neli-Beli and her family who waited beside me.

“It was a bit rough for the first month after the surgery,” Olivia told us, “but I never experienced any pain.”  Her system merely had to regain its balance, she added.

Of course, her smiles said it all; and we were truly happy for her.

April 1, 2012

Olivia joined us for the retreatants’ celebration in the parish hall after eleven o’clock Mass.

“I couldn’t attend the ACTS retreat this time,” she said; “but I’m definitely going on the next one!”

“We’ll be here to send you off and to celebrate with you afterwards,” I enthused.

Olivia’s a walking-talking miracle who’s loving every moment of her new life.

August 30, 2012

Olivia called mid-morning and joyously proclaimed, “I just had to call you, since you’re the one who prayed for me [to St. Peregrine].  I had my third checkup yesterday, and I’m still cancer free!”

She was upbeat and energized, sharing not only her comings and goings but also some health tips.

“George and I have been going to the gym one-and-a-half hours every day.  Well, except for Wednesdays.  I told George I needed one day off to rest, but we’re having a great time.  My legs are getting prettier now, too!  I don’t want to stop exercising.  I feel so good!” she giggled.  “I told God that I’d attend the ACTS retreat in November if my tests came out okay, and I’m fine!  I’m so happy!  I just had to call to let you know ’cause you always want to hear how I’m doing.”

“I’m so happy for you and George, Olivia!  I know how worried he was the day of the surgery.  He loves you sooo much!  I’m so glad to hear that everything is going so well.  Praise God!” I enthused.

“Well, I’ve gotta go now.  George and I are headed to the gym!  Until next time then,” she said with a youngster’s lilt in her voice.

Olivia’s another of the walking-talking miracles I know.  Just like Carlos, Pat’s husband.  I’m so blessed to know they’re thriving!

September 26, 2014

There are two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as if everything is (Albert Einstein).

November 1, 2012

Olivia and twenty other women were about to embark on their Thursday through Sunday women’s ACTS retreat, so we arrived at St. Paul’s before they walked into the parish hall for the big send-off.

What excitement!

Of course, George was misty-eyed.  “I’m going to miss her,” he told me a few times.  “I’m very sentimental, and I’ve heard that it’s okay to be that way.”

“Yes, it is, George,” Steven and I both agreed.

I caressed his face and followed up with a Texas-sized hug.  “But she’ll be back before you know it,” I reassured him smilingly.

               

December 9, 2012

Making my way to St. Paul’s entrance for eleven o’clock Mass, I spotted Olivia, who waved knowing I’d walk over to talk.

“Hi, Olivia!” I said, hugging her close without squeezing the life out of her.  “It’s so good to see you!”

“I saw Steve and asked if you’d be attending Mass.  He said ‘yes,’ so I’ve been waiting for you.  We attended Mass earlier, so I’m not staying for the men’s ACTS Mass or for lunch afterwards.  George and I are headed to the gym, but I wanted to talk to you real fast before leaving.  I had my doctor’s appointment on November 29, and got great results!  I’m still cancer free!”

“That’s great news, Olivia!  I’m so happy for you!” I enthused, as I reached into my tote for both my pen and my pad.

“But I have a favor to ask of you,” Olivia continued.  “Please pray for George.  He’s going in for an epidural on Monday morning at 8:15.  He’s got back problems, so the shot will help with the pain.”

“How long will the effects last?” I asked.

“It should help him for months, but the last shot lasted eighteen years.”

“Wow.  That’s a long time.”

“Yes.  We’re hoping it’ll last as long this time, too.”

“Alright,” I said, jotting everything down.  “I’ll be sure to add you and George to the church blog’s ‘Petitions’ and ‘Praise’ pages, and I’ll keep y’all in my thoughts and prayers as always.  Take care of yourselves, okay?”

“It’s really good seeing you,” Olivia said, hugging me goodbye.

“God bless you, Olivia.  Give George a big hug for me.”

November 9, 2015

“For even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by his sacraments or by the prayers or relics of his saints” (St. Augustine).

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Father Ralph’s homilies: 10 Oct 2010 / 22 Jan 2012 / 16 Sept 2012

Links of interest…  Five creative ways to pray for others…  Franciscan Mission Associates …  Miracle hunter: Miracles & evangelization…  Relics…  St. Peregrine: about / articles (prayer cards) / “cancer saint” / chaplet / feast / friends / healing power / intercessor & friend / May 1st / novena (more) / prayers (requests) / shrine…  Stella Maris: anniversary / facebook / history (more) / Lamar, TX (more) / marker

WP posts…  Delightful visit…  Father’s roses…  Heart’s desire…  Healing service…  Holy relics…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  Memorable as ever…  My Franciscan Crown…  Prayers and blessings…  Saintly connections…  Si quaeris miracula…  St. Anthony chaplets…  St. Peregrine relic…  Stella Maris…  Stella Maris moments

Saint of miracles

Just recently, as I was looking through my stash of prayer booklets and such, I came across Prayers for today to St. Anthony of Padua (Franciscan Mission Associates, B5/09).

The leaflet includes not just eleven prayers, but also a heartfelt introduction that appeals to one’s sense of proactive engagement that gladdens this teacher’s heart.

The printed prayers are a guide only.  If you prefer, you may use your own words in addressing
St. Anthony, just as you speak freely to a friend.  Better still, you may pray to him, wherever possible, without any words at all, but from the heart alone (p. 2).

Prayers to St. Anthony

Before a journey…  Dear St. Anthony, today I greet you as the special guardian of those who must travel, or go on a trip.  I appreciate your continued interest in my welfare and your unfailing help.  I am sure you will keep aiding us.

You were constantly on the move from one country to another— Sicily, France, Spain— and in all the cities of Italy.  So you know the perils of being on the road.  You have seen the troubles along the way.

In the journeys my family and I make please guide and guard us.  Let us move with caution even while we rely on your assistance.

Our Lord, Jesus Christ, told us, “I am the way.”  Pray to him for us to keep us always on the right path.  Amen.

V.  Pray for us, St. Anthony.
R.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Before Mass…  Dear St. Anthony, I greet you today with reverence in the knowledge of your special love of our Lord in the Eucharist.

Today I ask you to help me appreciate better the graces God gives us at holy Mass, and in receiving the sacred Eucharist.  I think of you especially when the liturgy speaks of “the saints who have done your will.”

With your aid I will be more reverent and worshipful during Mass, more careful in preparation for holy communion, more grateful in thanking god for the graces He gives us in the holy mysteries.

Let me be always well fed at the sacred banquet not only by the bread of life but by the word of God spoken for us and explained to us at Mass.  This favor, I ask of you, in Christ’s name.  Amen.

V.  Pray for us, St. Anthony.
R.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

For an understanding heart…  Dear St. Anthony, I salute you as my powerful patron before God.  You know how much we yearn for happiness, and how often and how stubbornly we seek it in the wrong places.

Please ask our Lord for us the grace he gave you so abundantly.  Thus, we may not vainly seek happiness in God’s creatures, but only in God himself, the source of all good.

Beg for us, powerful St. Anthony, the grace of an understanding heart.  Then, we will see the image of God in all those we meet and in every creature.  Let our hearts always be fixed on the true source of our joy, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

V.  Pray for us, St. Anthony. R.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

For continued help…  Dear St. Anthony, greetings!  I count on you as a special friend.  Now that I have personal experience of your help, I can thank you best by imitating you for, as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

May I select one virtue of your, then, that I most admire?  Perhaps, I choose this trait of yours because I so much lack it.  I’d like to imitate your goodness to the poor and those in need.

I shall start with those nearest to me, my own family.  I will do something for them whenever I can, and try to anticipate their needs.  Then I’ll look for a chance among those who live next door.

Please help me to persevere in this good intention, to progress from kind words to good deeds, and not to be discouraged if my intentions are misunderstood.  Please pray for me to God; this I ask of you in the name of Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

V.  Pray for us, St. Anthony. R.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

For peace…  Dear St. Anthony, yet again I greet you and thank you.  Throughout your life you always tried to be a peacemaker.  You were always reconciling enemies, getting factions to work together, smoothing and composing differences.

Our world is now upset with wars abroad, with violence and dissension at home.  Everywhere in our cities and towns, in our colleges and schools, even in our churches, a spirit of strife too often prevails.

These are all, as you know better than I, the fruit of sin, a sign of human instability and insufficiency.  Help us by your power before God to be peacemakers.  Help me especially to pray and work for peace in my family and my neighborhood whenever I can.  I ask this favor in the name of our Lord, the prince of peace.  Amen.

V.  Pray for us, St. Anthony. R.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

In time of trial…  Great St. Anthony, I thank our Lord for the benefits he still gives us today in your honor.  I thank him, too, for the graces he gave you during your brief span on earth.

God can give us, his creatures, no greater gift than himself.  This is what Jesus, our Lord, did when as the divine infant, he embraced you.  It is also a symbol of the love he holds for all his people, the love he longs to share with each one of us, even me.

Dear St. Anthony, help me in my anxieties, troubles, and afflictions, particularly (here mention your request).  Please intercede for me with God in my necessities.  This I ask through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

V.  Pray for us, St. Anthony.
R.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Contact information

               

If you’d like to request prayers and/or a third-class St. Anthony relic, contact Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mount Vernon, NY 10551-0598.

April 15, 2015

Be natural in your meditation.  Use up your own stock of piety and love before resorting to books….  Our good Master prefers the poverty of our hearts to the most sublime thoughts borrowed from others (St. Peter Julian Eymard).

Links of interest…   American Catholic…  Basilica in Padua, Italy…  Dear St. Anthony
…  Franciscan Mission Associates…  Help from heaven…  Hymn to St. Anthony of Padua…  Nine Tuesdays devotion…  Si quaeris miracula: prayer / song…  St. Anthony: 1195-1231 / biography / Franciscan / life / mail deliveries (S.A.G.) / miracles & traditions / shrine / stolen relic / wonder worker…  St. Anthony’s Guild: devotions / ecards / prayer requests / prayers

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Franciscan experience…  Holy relics…  In good time…  Making meaning…  My Franciscan Crown…  Prayer…  Si quaeris miracula…  St. Anthony…  St. Felix…  Tony’s big day

Oh, happy day!

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As I worked on this week’s post for our church blog, I wondered when exactly Ordinary Time would start.  Not Sunday.  That’s the Epiphany of the Lord.  Monday?  Even though it’s the baptism of the Lord?  Probably.

I was looking at the Word among us and found that Tuesday prayers reflect the first week in Ordinary Time.  So when does Christmas officially end? I wondered, and off I went into search and find mode.  So I googled when does Christmas start and end but round and round I went taking longer than anticipated until, finally, I was enlightened.

Then I read, Christmas begins at sundown on Christmas Eve and ends with the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord.

Major epiphany

Woohoo!  Great response.  Now I know for sure.

Funny that I’d never stopped to wonder why it was that, back home, folks celebrate Three Kings Day in a very big way.  It’s a rather complicated story to me related to finding the baby in cake served and then having to pay it forward by hosting another party for everyone.  I don’t even recall when the initial baby cake is served, so I guess this is a story for another time when I’ve checked it out.

Our principal used to do that to the faculty and staff at our public school.  But, while it was always fun to eat cake, it wasn’t so much fun to host a party ’cause I’ve always been a party pooper.  Still, it worked out well, since she’d have the baker place ten babies in the initial cake so that the expense and the responsibility would be shared, which was fine.

Oh, the memories!  But, while I’m at it, what is Epiphany?

I continued my searches.  And when I was nearly frustrated I remembered the source that never disappoints.

Fish eaters have the most gorgeous pictures with their explanations on the various topics!  I love their site!  And I found lots to read and share so, last night when Steven asked for this month’s issue of the Word among us to prepare for today’s readings, I waxed eloquent on the topic of Epiphany.

Wow.  I couldn’t believe I’d gone all these years without fully grasping the meaning of the twelve days of Christmas.

What an epiphany!  Yes.  I couldn’t resist the pun.  The ol’ pea brain is always blown away with every little (and big) morsel of knowledge gleaned.

Epiphany

The Epiphany of the Lord is celebrated in ways I never knew!  I couldn’t believe we’ve never discussed these traditions at church, so I kept my ears and eyes open during this morning’s Mass.

Yes, Father Xaviour talked about the Magi.  Yes, Jay Masterson had us sing We Three Kings.  But where was the tradition of the chalk and the gifts of the Magi, not to mention the Epiphany water that one takes home to bless every room in the house?

Customs and traditions

For families who practice traditions involving “the Magi” or “La Befana” leaving gifts for children, the day begins with the wee ones discovering what was left for them while they slept on Twelfth Night.

At today’s Mass, there will be a blessing of gold, frankincense, myrrh, Epiphany Water, and, after Communion, a blessing of chalk.  Bring small special items of gold to have with you during the Mass, and they will be blessed if they are exposed as you sit in your pew with them (wedding rings, rosaries, an heirloom piece of gold jewelry, for example).

When Mass is over, you will take some of the blessed chalk, frankincense, myrrh, and Epiphany Water home with you, so it’s good to bring a container to transport Holy Water and one to put some grains of incense and a piece of chalk into.  (Note: if you can, take and keep [five] pieces of blessed incense for your Paschal Candle this Easter).

When you get home, sprinkle some Epiphany water (otherwise and afterwards used as regular Holy Water) in the rooms of your house to protect it and bring blessings.  This Holy Water recalls the waters of the Jordan, and is a visible reminder of Christ’s Divinity, of Jesus’s revealing Himself as God at His Baptism, when were heard the words from the Father: “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” This rite of blessing the home [is] led by a priest, if possible, or the father of the house if no priest is available… (Fish eaters, n. d.).

Gifts of the Magi

SJC122513-2While I love the idea of baking a Three Kings cake now that I have the recipe, what matters more is that I understand the meaning of Epiphany and the significance of the gifts of the Magi.

Although Steven and I like to keep Christmas year ’round, I find myself eagerly awaiting the Epiphany of the Lord again so that I can participate more fully.  Additionally, I look forward to being present at a Mass during which gold, frankincense, myrrh, water, and chalk are blessed and subsequently shared with the church community.

I want to live my faith by bringing home the gifts of the Magi, reciting the prayers, and blessing every room in the house!  After all, Epiphany is an extraordinary tradition with countless blessings for the entire year.

Prayer

Loving God, Mary, Joseph and your Son, Jesus, were visited by the Magi.  They were poor and surely astounded by such wonderful gifts that were brought to them.  Yet they were a gift to their visitors from distant lands.  Open our eyes and help us to see the gifts of love that come our way, gifts that may be small in material value, but rich in love and faith.  Amen (Fr. John Anglin, OFM).

January 22, 2012

After Mass, Ly Vu gave me the Epiphany prayer and a piece of pink chalk from the service she attended at St. Louis Cathedral in Austin.  What a thoughtful surprise!

       

January 5, 2014

In choosing to be born for us God chose to be known by us.  He therefore reveals himself in this way in order that this great sacrament of his love may not be an occasion for us of great misunderstanding.

Today the Magi find, crying in a manger, the one they have followed as he shone in the sky.  Today the Magi see clearly, in swaddling clothes, the one they have long awaited as he lay hidden among the stars.

Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: Heaven on earth, earth in heaven, man in God, God in man, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body.  As they look they believe and do not question as their symbolic gifts bear witness: Incense for God, gold for a king, myrrh for one who is to die.

So the Gentiles who were the last become the first: The faith of the Magi is the first fruits of the belief of the Gentiles (St. Peter Chrysologus).

December 24, 2015

The whole round earth is thirsting for your birthday, Lord.  In that one happy day are contained all the ages to come (St. Ephrem of Syria).

January 3, 2016

The star beckoned the three wise men out of their distant country and led them to recognize and adore the king of heaven and earth.  The obedience of the star calls us to imitate its humble service: to be servants, as best we can, of the grace that invites all men to find Christ (St. Leo the Great).

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Links of interest…  Baptism of the Lord…  Christmas novena (Nov 30-Dec 24)…  Christmastide: customs / days / foods / octave (more) / other countries & cultures / overview / prayers (guide) / twelve days (more) / why celebrate…  Epiphany: about / feast (more) / five inspirational quotesfour beautiful traditionsglory of God revealed / meaningprayers & customs (more) / saints / season / “three kings day“…  Las posadas & the 2nd Christmas novena (Dec 16-24)…  Sermons of St. Peter Chrysologus…  T. S. Eliot & dreading Christmas…  Three wise men: who werewhere are the relics…  We three kings (YouTube)…  What became of the Magi after visiting Jesus…  What stars can teach us…  Where are the relics of the three wise men (great searchers of truth)…  the Word among us

WP posts…  Advent prayers…  Blue heaven…  Budding relationships…  Christmas blessings…  Christmas year ’round…  Church time blues…  Concrete abstraction…  Faith and prayer…  Golden…  On being Christian…  Our Lady…  Powerful intercessor
…  Promise of hope…  Santo Niño…  Sweet Jesus…  Thanksgiving prayers

Lourdes novenas

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Yesterday I received another novena in honor of our Lady of Lourdes.  Since I’d long intended to post the prayers, I compared the new leaflet to those I already had and— joyful surprise— each one is different.

Prayers

Petition…  O ever Immaculate Virgin, mother of mercy, health of the sick, refuge of sinners, comforter of the afflicted, you know my wants, my troubles, my sufferings; look with mercy on me.

By appearing in the grotto of Lourdes, you were pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary where you dispense your favors; and already many sufferers have obtained the cure of their infirmities both spiritual and corporal.

I come, therefore, with complete confidence to ask your maternal intercession.  Obtain, O loving Mother, the grant of my requests….

Through gratitude for your favors, I will endeavor to imitate your virtues that I may one day share your glory.  Amen.

                

              

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Contact information

The novena leaflets are from Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mount Vernon, NY 10551-0598.  The Story of Our Lady of Lourdes is from Food for the Poor, Inc., 6401 Lyons Road Coconut Creek, Florida 33073-3603.  The two intercessory prayer cards are from Franciscan Mission Associates and the Association of the Miraculous Medal, 1811 West Saint Joseph Street, Perryville, MO 63775-1598, respectively.

February 11, 2014

Our Lady of Lourdes has a message for everyone.  Be men and women of freedom! (Blessed John Paul II).

February 11, 2015

“The message of the Madonna, which continued to spread from Lourdes, recalled the words of Jesus which he announced at the beginning of his public ministry: Convert and believe in the gospel, pray, and do penance” (Pope Benedict XVI).

July 19, 2017

I knew nothing; I was nothing.  For this reason, God picked me out
(St. Catherine Labouré).

July 28, 2017

I must also pray, she said, for the conversion of sinners.  I asked her many times what she meant by that, but she only smiled (St. Bernadette Soubirous).

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Grotto at the Oblate School of Theology – San Antonio, TX

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Grotto at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake – Mundelein, IL

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Old Cathedral – St. Louis, MO

Links of interest…  Easter live from Lourdes…  Franciscan Mission Associates…  Hidden in plain sight…  Lessons of St. Bernadette…  Let Our Lady inspire perfection…  Lourdes Grotto & Guadalupe Tepeyac (San Antonio, TX): directions / facebook / mission / photos…  Mundelein Seminary: about / facebook / videos / Word on Fire: articles – blog – homilies – website…  Our Lady of Lourdes: about / grotto / petitions & candles (France) / pilgrimage site (St. Lucy’s Church, NY)…  Power of praying Marian novenas…  Rio Grande City, TX: historynational shrine / photos

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Faces of Mary…  Father’s guided tour…  Lady of sorrows…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  May flowers…  My Franciscan Crown…  Our Lady…  Repeated prayers

Promise of hope

Before Christmas, Steven and I traveled to San Antonio to visit our beloved Fr. Sheehan at the Oblate Madonna Residence.

Gift shop

At the conclusion of time happily spent with Father, not to mention the VIP tour he gave us of the grounds and the facility where he resides, Steven and I drove to the Oblate gift shop.

Entering the building I noticed that Mary graces everything everywhere related to the Oblates!

       

Then I walked into the gift shop, and—  oh, my!  What a wonderful place with groupings here and there very tastefully displayed.  I asked the woman behind the counter if I could take photos; but she looked at me as if to say, “I think not.”  I suppose I could’ve asked her supervisor, but chose to explore the shop instead and was immediately captivated.

Statue dilemma

Whether the statues were same-sized or not, each face was unique.

“Oh, look, darling!  This is the most beautiful Infant I’ve ever seen!  Look at his delicate features.  See how he’s different from the others?”

“That’s because each statue has been hand painted,” Steven responded.

“Oh, my gosh!” I gushed as I held the Infant statue.  “He’s so beautiful!”

“Take him.”

“I can’t.  I already have mine.  And the small ceramic one that belonged to Tía Queta, the one Belia gave me.  What would I do with another one?  Besides, one is enough.  How sad if I couldn’t focus all my love on just one!” I rationalized aloud, trying really hard not to give in to my impulses.

“Take him,” Steven insisted.

“No, that’s all right.  I have mine.  But this one is absolutely gorgeous.  His face is the most beautiful one here.  Such an exquisite face!” I said, placing the statue back on the shelf with the others before changing my focus.  “Did you see St. Anthony?  Oh, my, gosh.  That’s another one, but I’m going to walk around now because what I really need are prayer cards for my blog.”

Pleasant surprise

I’ve always said that presentation is everything, and the gift shop certainly appealed to my senses.  I could easily have spent hours browsing, but we’d agreed to visit the Oblate cemetery afterwards and didn’t want to put that off.

I selected fifteen laminated cards, including St. Martin of Tours for my “Budding relationships” post, and looked around the shop one last time before heading to the checkout counter.

Of course, Steven had gotten there first and— oh, my, gosh.  He had the statues as well as three Guadalupe Tepeyac mementos for the gang, our prayer group members from St. Paul’s in Flour Bluff.  So, I was happy, yes, but concerned, too.  I should know better than to open my mouth when I see something I really and truly like.  Still, I’d had a thought about the Infant— one that I had no intention of sharing lest I change my mind.

Oblate cemetery

The temperature had dropped since we’d been at the gift shop, so I tried not to think about the cold.  Shivering, I followed Steven behind the gift shop to the adjacent property and remained on the street.  What a somber sight: rows of headstones perfectly aligned, keeping reverent company with one another.

Steven walked past a few and was astonished.  “Some of these dates go way back!”

Then, out of the blue, a nicely-plumped mockingbird perched itself atop one of the markers before brazenly flying to one closer to us.  It didn’t budge at all as if letting us know “I’m the caretaker here, so you be respectful.”

           

        

       

Shared thoughts

Standing there at the cemetery I felt so very sad at the realization that priests are just like the rest of us: They deal with debilitating illnesses and die.  Then, too, the thought of priests residing so close to the place where they might be buried hit me like a ton of bricks!

The reality of life and death seemed quite harsh.  Have those at the Oblate Madonna Residence returned to where they started their journey to be buried here, too?

Again and again, I took note of all the headstones.  I wanted to spend time with each one, read their names and dates, and thank them for heeding the call of service.

So many priests buried here!  I wonder what their lives were like.  I wonder if their families came to the funeral services or if just the Oblates attended because their relatives were either dead, too old to assist, or unable to attend for other reasons. 

It’s quite a sacrifice to spend one’s life away from family as Fr. Sheehan has done since 1949, when he joined the seminary at age fourteen.  He was such a youngster then but, as time passed, his parents died and so did many of his thirteen siblings.

So, is this what happens when priests come to the Oblate Seminary?  Do others ever stop to think what happens when priests retire?  When they’re alone with no one to visit?  When they’re ill?  When they’re confined to a facility and can no longer serve as they used to?

I thought back to my students.

Incredibly, some of them had no idea that I had a life outside of teaching.  They were stunned to see me shopping for groceries, surprised to see me at the mall, amused to see me wearing shorts and a tee-shirt, glad to see me at church— but always joyful to bump into me anywhere, everywhere.

Similarly, I’d never wondered what Fr. Sheehan meant when he’d written to say he’d retired, when he’d told me he was “living in a home.”  I’d imagined him still celebrating Mass on a daily basis or assisting at various parishes as needed.  I’d never stopped to think that some priests might be physically and/or mentally incapacitated or that they’d live in either a nursing home or an assisted living facility.

Other than contributing to special collections for retired priests and religious at church and mailing donations for that purpose to Catholic groups we support, I’d never given much thought to what retirement meant for those in God’s service.  So, our visit to Fr. Sheehan at the Oblate Madonna Residence had been quite a revelation.  But seeing the cemetery felt like being stabbed in the heart!

Promise of hope

Since returning from our trip to San Antonio, my mind has continued to process my thoughts and feelings from our visit with Fr. Sheehan.  At times tearfully I’ve contemplated the reality of what it is to be in service to God.

Regardless of what it takes to choose that vocation— or even how much one loves that life— it’s not an easy road to see through to the completion of one’s life.

No matter how good the care is at retirement facilities, there’s so much of real life that’s absent—  family, for instance— which explains Fr. Bob’s exuberance in telling us that he’d be spending Christmas with his three nephews and why Fr. Sheehan has always talked about his month’s vacation “back home in Chicago” where he stays with his three sisters.

“I could stay longer,” he told us matter-of-factly with an air of wistful amusement, “but I don’t want them to get tired of having me around.”

Does he make himself say that because he knows that, no matter how much he loves and enjoys his family, his chosen path is different from the rest of us who live in the real world day in and day out?  Does he feel out of place when he’s gone too long from his chosen environment?

A book I read to my students suddenly came to mind.  Like the Velveteen Rabbit who gave his all for the love of a child, Fr. Sheehan and others we saw at the Oblate Madonna Residence gave their all for the love of God.

What selfless dedication to the one whose son is our promise of hope!

Prayers to the Holy Infant of Prague

Novena…  O Jesus, prince of peace and king of the universe, you chose to humble yourself and come into the world not as a powerful ruler, but as a helpless infant.

Grant us the grace of humility and gentleness before you and our brothers and sisters.  Grant, too, O Lord, that we may always strive to achieve the virtue and innocence of your own holy childhood.  Instill in us a growing faith in you, O Lord, and the strength to resist temptation in a world which widely rejects you.  Look upon us with compassion and forgive us our sins.  Fill our hearts with kindness and understanding especially for children, the aged, and those we dislike or who dislike us.

O Jesus, who so loved children that you admonished us “unless you become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven,” grant us a childlike faith and purity of heart.

During these nine days of prayer, O divine Infant King, give us the grace not only to pray fervently, but also to help spread your gospel by deed as well as word.  Amen.

Petition…  O Infant of Prague who said “the more you honor me, the more I will bless you,” give us the strength to bear the burdens of daily life in this sinful world.  Give us a firm purpose of amendment and a resolve to lead a better life.  Help us endure our afflictions and sorrows with patience and courage.

Finally, O beloved Infant King, if it be your will, grant my petitions.  (State your request.)  But, whatever you choose, give me the strength to submit to your will in all things.  Amen.

Prayers may be said on any nine successive days, especially from the 16th to the 24th of any month and, most especially, before the Feast of the Nativity of Christ the Infant.

June 3, 2015

Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817).

May 19, 2016

Divine hope is not like earthly hope.  The latter is subject to disappointment for, however strong our security, it can either be realized or not realized.  Who is the fortunate person who has seen all his hopes fulfilled in this world?  But the theological virtue of hope is not subject to disappointment; it gives us the holy, invincible certainty that we shall obtain what God has promised (Luis M. Martinez in When God is Silent).

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Pdf files…  Letters to Father Bob & Father Sheehan

Links of interest…  Child Jesus: about / chaplet (more) / devotion / feast / novena / of good health…  Father’s funeral remembered…  Priests: 100 prayers for priests / holy hour for priests / novena / prayers for priests / priests and religious prayers / St. John Vianney…  Promises, promises…  Uncertain lives: Children of promise, teachers of hope (Bullough, Jr.; 2001)…  When God is silent

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Building community…  Call of service…  Christmas year ’round…  Connected tangents…  Father’s guided tour…  Father now retired…  Gifts…  Heart of hearts…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  May flowers…  Memory lane…  On being Christian…  Our Lady…  A real church…  Santo Niño…  Soulful…  Sweet Jesus…  Two angels…  Venerable Margaret

Father now retired

Christmas decorations, nativity scenes, and trees delicately lit adorned every bit of the Oblate Madonna Residence on December 23, 2011, our first visit there.  I was so glad to finally visit that I hadn’t thought to call ahead to make sure Fr. Sheehan would want (or have time) to share space with us that day.  After all, we hadn’t seen each other in almost seven-and-a-half years, not since I’d driven from Brownsville to Roma to meet Father at Our Lady of Refuge before going to dinner at Dairy Queen.

Even though Fr. Sheehan had been one of three priests assigned to Immaculate Conception Cathedral and its missions— Sacred Heart and St. Thomas— for a number of years, I hadn’t interacted with Father other than as a parishioner attending the Masses he’d celebrated.

God’s master plan

ICC81411-187Then, after work on September 12, 2002, I called the cathedral and asked if either Fr. Moran or Fr. Lanese were at the office so I could go by to talk.

“They’re both unavailable,” the secretary told me; “but Fr. Sheehan is here.  I’m sure he wouldn’t mind you dropping by to see him.  Would you like for me to let him know you’re on the way?”

I didn’t respond right away.  I was comfortable with Fr. Moran, since he was our priest at Sacred Heart, and I’d gone to confession with Fr. Lanese; but I’d never dealt with Fr. Sheehan before.  Still, I was desperate to sit and talk about a personal crisis from the day before.

“Yes, please,” I finally said.  “I should be there in about fifteen minutes.”

Driving to the cathedral, I didn’t know which would be worse, sharing my dilemma with Father Sheehan or— dread of all dreads— being chastised when I really needed patience and understanding.

All the way there, I thought back to the two times (in 1970 and in 1990) when I’d sought assistance from a priest.  Neither had gone well, so my mind teetered between feeling apprehensive and needing peace of mind.  Having matured since then, however, I knew better than to back away.  Besides, I’d already committed to showing up.

Overcoming adversity

I parked adjacent to my old school across the street from the office.  No turning back now, I thought.

I’d been to the office a few times, namely, when to register and to turn in raffle ticket money; but, so unlike the cathedral itself, the place seemed unfamiliar and lacked personality.  Nevertheless, the secretary was gracious and kind.

“You’re here to see Fr. Sheehan?” she asked smilingly.

ICC81411-9“Yes,” I said politely.

“Follow me, please.”

Fr. Sheehan’s office was across from the reception area.  The top half of its door was glass; everything else around it, shades of yellow.  I didn’t have much time to think because the door opened right away.

Friend in need

Much taller up close than from the fifth pew in church, Father greeted me with a warm, boyish smile.  He was so down to earth that I felt I’d known him all my life.

Father’s office had three or four chairs around a small table with magazines, so we sat to converse within that circle as friends, not as a priest and a stranger seated with a desk-barrier between us.

Of course, I didn’t know how or where to start.  So Father said,

By the time people come into my office, they’ve already gone through a lot.  A lot of grief.  A lot of worry.  A lot of penance.  They’ve been harder on themselves than either I or God would ever be.  My job isn’t to scold or to punish.  My role as a priest is to listen, accept, and understand.  We all make mistakes, and we suffer dearly for them.  By the time people come in, they’re at the end of their rope; so I’m not going to make things worse.  Just tell me what’s on your mind, and we’ll take it from there.

Forever friends

For almost two months I visited daily.  Sometimes we talked about books we’d read; other times, about work.  We’d both suffered recent losses: Father, his mother and his sister; me, someone I’d thought was a lifelong friend.

“We’ll commiserate,” he’d tease.

Certainly, we did our share of laughing and crying to the point that Fr. Lanese would pass by, look in on us through the door’s window, and shake his head.

We learned about each other’s family, too, which Father really enjoyed.  He told the best stories.

We became forever friends in a short span of time so that, even when Father was transferred to Roma, which might as well have been the other side of the world, we began our correspondence.  And I drove there a couple of times with Acacia-Darling, my one and only grandchild then, to visit a few hours and enjoy a meal at Dairy Queen since both of them thoroughly enjoyed chicken fingers with mashed potatoes, gravy, and Texas toast.

               

               

Of course, my life got busier and busier.  I taught school, did paperwork and more at home, and continued with graduate studies.  Then, as time passed, I didn’t have time for visits anymore and corresponded less and less.

Not Father, though.  He sent cards regularly even though I was on another planet altogether.

Still, if we could’ve communicated telepathically, he would’ve known that I always vividly recalled our talks, the stories, the laughter, and the tears.

Beloved priest

Over the years I’ve treasured Father not only for his greeting cards, but especially for his being my forever friend— caring, loving, supportive— no matter how infrequently I’ve corresponded.  To this day, too, Father Sheehan is synonymous with Immaculate Conception Cathedral, my heart of hearts since age five when I attended first grade in the building across the street.  So how could I ever possibly forget when the memories have been so entwined?

For this reason, I’d always wanted to visit Fr. Sheehan again.  So, when we finally had the chance, December 23, 2011, I wasn’t going to give up just because Father didn’t remember me.

As I later wrote in a letter to Fr. Bob, whom Steven and I met as we were leaving the Oblate Madonna Residence much later that afternoon, our visit with Fr. Sheehan was truly memorable.

I only wish we lived closer, so we could surprise Father more often.  But, having had such a great time, we’ll simply have to drive to San Antonio more than once every four or five years if we want to enjoy his sense of humor and, perhaps, your smiling face should you happen to be in at the time.

To me, there’s no one as kind, as attentive, or as real as Father.  When I was most in need of someone, he welcomed me into his office and made me feel that everything was going to be just fine.  And it was.

I’m sooo blessed to know him!

      

     

           

        

       

January 13, 2013

Steven and I had a fantabulous time as usual visiting Fr. Sheehan again.

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Pdf files: Letters to Fr. BobFr. Sheehan

Links of interest…  100 prayers for priests…  Holy hour for priests…  Prayers for priests & for religious…  Ten short meditations for making a good confession

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Beautiful sacred space…  Building community…  Call of service…  Connected tangents…  Father’s guided tour…  Gifts…  Heart of hearts…  Home again…  Marian devotions…  Memory lane…  Our Lady…  Promise of hope…  A real church…  Soulful…  Sweet Jesus…  Two angels

Father’s guided tour

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After lunch, Steven drove us around San Antonio.  Since Fr. Sheehan has a sweet tooth and I wanted some ice cream, we finally found a Dairy Queen before returning to the Oblate Madonna Residence on Blanco Road.

The afternoon had turned frigid, and Steven was the only one with a warm jacket; but that didn’t keep Father from asking, “Would you like a tour of the place?”

“Like, oh, my gosh!” I squealed.  “Do you even need to ask?!  Yes!  Please!

And off we went.

Advent scenes

             

             

Lourdes grotto

             

            

           

Tepeyac shrine

               

               

               

                

               

Cavalry of Christ

               

Oblate grounds

                

               

                

               

Oblate grotto in San Antonio

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Contact information

Both the Tepeyac pamphlet and the grotto schedule cards are from Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, 5712 Blanco Road, Building 42, San Antonio, TX 78216.

Links of interest…  Lourdes (France): about / miracles & cures / petitions…  Lourdes Grotto & Guadalupe Tepeyac (SATX): anniversary / directions / facebook / mission / photos…  Guadalupe Tepeyac: basilica / brochure / movie (YouTube) / play (video) / story…  Our Lady of Lourdes: grotto / Massabielle / Ohio / Rio Grande City: history / photos / national shrine / pilgrimage site

WP posts…  Advent prayers…  Angels keeping watch…  Building community…  Connected tangents…  Faces of Mary…  Father now retired…  Gifts…  Heart of hearts…  Lourdes novenas…  Marian devotions…  Memory lane…  Our Lady…  Promise of hope…  A real church…  San Juan Diego…  Soulful…  Sweet Jesus…  Two angels